Mason returns to Polytech as head football coach

WOODSIDE — When Robert Mason talked with Polytech High’s football players on Wednesday, it was a little bit more of a reunion than a first meeting.

Mason had been an assistant with the Panthers from 2013-16, coaching this year’s juniors when they were freshmen.

“They were excited to see me back,” he said, “and I’m excited to be back.”

This time around, though, Mason will be Polytech’s head football coach. His hiring was announced on Friday by athletic director Kevin Smith, who stepped down as the Panthers’ coach in January.

Along with Polytech, the 50-year-old Mason has also been an assistant coach at Caesar Rodney and Red Lion Christian. Last fall, he was the coach of ECHS@DSU’s first-year junior varsity program.

Mason is also a former head coach and president of the Dover CR Pop Warner program.

A standout running back/linebacker at Randallstown, Md. High, Mason said he was excited about the opportunity to return to Polytech.

“Polytech’s a great school,” he said. “It’s great academics, great kids. They give you everything that they have. As a coach, you love kids that give you what they have.”

The Panthers are coming off a 1-9 season. While they went 6-4 in 2018, building a consistent winner at Polytech has always been an issue.

At a school with no direct feeder system, Mason said his experience as a youth coach will come in handy. He said a number of standout Kent County players came through the Dover CR program.

“We don’t have a good idea of who’s coming to the school and what their experience is,” said Mason, who’s worked as a probation and parole officer for the state of Delaware for the last 19 years.

“That’s one of the reasons Coach (Kevin) Smith hired me years ago — I understood how to teach the fundamentals of football. That’s a need. … A lot of coaches have coached high school ball or maybe even college ball. But how many have taught the kids how to put on shoulder pads and helmets and what steps to make? Poly gets a lot of players who have never played football before.”

A U.S. Air Force veteran who lives in Felton, Mason said he’s already started to put together his coaching staff. Former Polytech head coach Stanley Burris is among the assistants that Mason expects to have on the sidelines.

While the season is still five months away, Mason said he’s already got his playbook finished and is communicating with his players about conditioning. The Panthers are slated to open the season on Sept. 5 by hosting Lake Forest in the 302 Kickoff Classic.

“I’m one of those coaches that’s always working on something, even if it’s not the season,” said Mason. “I’m always trying to prepare. You never know when an opportunity presents itself.

“I’m just excited about the upcoming season,” he said.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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